Archive for the ‘The 1996 Reforms and TANF’ Category

Pushing Baltimore Forward

April 30, 2012 6 comments

During my time as the mayor of Baltimore, I have undertaken numerous projects that have transformed Baltimore from an industrial center into a modern city progressing towards the 21st century.  In 1992, we also finished construction on the Camden Yards Baseball Field that is the home of the Baltimore Orioles. I also brought the Ravens Football Franchise to Baltimore in 1996. In addition, we have also completed construction on the M&T Bank Stadium that will house the Baltimore Ravens. Having two major sports franchises and two state of the art facilities in the heart of Baltimore should generate greater wealth for the city (Schmoke 1998, 111). In addition, I have also made sure that the successful development of the Inner Harbor reached out to positively affect the surrounding neighborhoods by introducing new restaurants, businesses, museums shops, and hotels.

Economic and urban redevelopment are essential to rebuilding Baltimore, however it is not possible to rely on development exclusively and, it is clear that the past policies achieved limited success due to their over reliance on redevelopment as a solution to poverty.We need to get at the roots of poverty if we are to help the poorest of Baltimore’s poor.  I believe that the roots causes of poverty stem from deficiencies in education and housing, poor public health policies, and increasing crime. These are not problems that can be solved by building a few fancy hotels or stadiums.  We need to turn this “tale of two cities” (Schmoke 1998, 112) into one story.

The first problem I mentioned is the lack of quality educational programs available not only for children but also for adults. We are long past the point where an individual with a limited education could go out, get a factory job, and provide for their family. Jobs of the new service economy require a higher degree of education that most lower class Baltimoreans lack and face great difficulty acquiring. Simply put, Baltimoreans cannot advance in today’s world without education. That is why in 1994 I launched a new literacy program in Baltimore. The program includes two groups, the Baltimore Literacy Corporation, a government run group, and Baltimore Reads, a local non-profit (Schmoke 1998, 112). The two organizations combined forces to provide quality educational opportunities for both adults and children.

A second problem facing Baltimore is the fact that the poorest Baltimoreans have long been restricted to subpar housing that was not conducive to family living. We therefore decided to have several of these complexes torn down to make way for new row and town houses that would be available to all citizens of Baltimore. We want to also appeal to middle class residents in and outside Baltimore which would not only bring people back into the city but also diversity neighborhoods (Schmoke 1998, 112).

A third problem is the rampant cases of drug addiction and HIV/AIDS in Baltimore. It is estimated that 59,000 Baltimore residents suffer from a severe, deadly drug addiction (Schmoke, 1998, 113). This figure is staggering when one considers that the population of Baltimore city is approximately 675,000 people (Schmoke 1998, 111).Furthermore, research shows that approximately “85% of new HIV…infections are attributed to drug addicts using dirty needles” (Schmoke 1998, 113) in Baltimore. To combat this problem, I started a needle exchange program to halt the growth of HIV cases. The program was at first controversial and still is but it has been successful in reducing the rate of new HIV cases and providing drug addicts with access to drug rehabilitation programs.

What I would like to show is that Baltimore needs innovation more than anything. Much praise has been laded onto two welfare acts passed by President Clinton, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in 1997. These programs are meant to help families get off welfare by finding work. These two programs however have been far from perfect. There is a federal requirement that at least 14,000 welfare recipients must find work by 1999 however Baltimore is projected to produce only 2,800 jobs in that time frame (Schmoke 1997, 78). My administration thus started a “Bridges to Work” program (Schmoke 1997, 79) that would give bus passes to welfare recipients so that they could access the suburbs where job growth is far greater.

Simply put, Baltimore needs more than economic development and federal acts. We need to reach out to the people to determine their needs and solve the real problems that lead to poverty. Such a process however also requires a great deal of innovation from city leadership and the people. I know my programs are not perfect but I believe that we are on the right track and that Baltimore will become a great city in the near future.

The Mayor, 1998

Schmoke, Kurt L. “Ingredients for a Successful City. “Vital Speeches of the Day. 1998, 110-113.

Schmoke, Kurt L. “Welfare Reform: A Work in Progress.” Vital Speeches of the Day. 1997, 78-80.

Levine, Marc V. “A Third World City in the First World: Social Exclusion, Racial Inequality, and Sustainable Development in Baltimore.” The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and the Management of Change. Eds. Mario Polese and Richard Stren.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. 123-155.


Photo: Pharmacy Exchange.

Welfare Reform in the 1990’s: A Mother’s Unanswered Questions

April 29, 2012 1 comment

The year is 1996, and welfare reform changes are being made. My name is Yvette Tillman. I just turned twenty one several days ago, a birthday I celebrated with my mother, Maya, my boyfriend Jamal, and our two year old daughter Nia. Jamal and I have been dating since we were freshmen in high school, and while having a child at such a young age is a test to any relationship, I think it has only brought us closer. We are considering getting married soon so that we can provide Nia with a more stable family dynamic, especially since “research suggests that children are – on average – better off, both economically and psychologically, in stable two-parents families” (Sawhill, 17). With the recent changes to Maryland’s welfare policies, this might also mean that we would be eligible for more welfare funding. After I graduated from high school I tried to get a part time job, but shortly after I got pregnant with Nia, which limited my ability to work. I’m curious to see how the recent establishment of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families will affect me and my family, and how it will be different from AFDC. It seems like Bill Clinton has a much more democratic view of welfare and doesn’t support the conservative attitude that women like me are having children just to receive welfare payments.

Because these reforms are fairly recent, I do have some questions about how I will be affected by them. In the past, some have considered AFDC to be an entitlement to the poor, while it seems like TANF will be more of a privilege with established capped limits. I’ve even heard that some states are refusing to provide aid to mothers who cannot identify the father of their child. Conservatives are saying that a single mother and a child are not considered a family, and that condoning this family structure threatens the definition of what a family should be. Personally, I think it’s incredibly unfair to limit mothers who need aid just because the child’s father is not in the picture. I’ve also heard that the new TANF policy will establish a work requirement in order to continue receiving aid. I’m interested, especially because education will now also count towards the work requirement, which will hopefully encourage teen mothers to attend school regularly and still be able to provide for their kids. I’m still unclear on what Maryland’s policies will be, since they differ by state. What will be my work requirement? What if I can’t fulfill it? Will I stop receiving aid from the state? I am definitely considering the work training hours. While it might be hard right now, this would be a great option for me once Nia gets older, starts going to school, and doesn’t need my constant care.

Recent statistics are looking very positive for mothers like me. According to recent reports, employment of single mothers is on the rise, and black child poverty is steadily declining. However, it seems that the reforms are not a win-win for everyone. While many are leaving the welfare rolls, it is arguable whether they end up better or worse off in the long run. Once someone stops receiving welfare, there is no follow-up system in place to see how the person is faring financially, and if they are really no longer in need of assistance. The Earned Income Tax Credit and Medicaid childcare have been a great help to working families in reducing their welfare dependency. The work oriented welfare reforms are also encouraging people to go out and look for work, becoming more involved in the community and making themselves active citizens. The case load decline has also allowed each state to give more financial aid to the families remaining on welfare, in the last several years increasing the amount from $3,500 to $8,000 (Sawhill).

To me, it’s a bit unclear why the number of people on welfare has decreased so dramatically. My friend Racquel no longer needs to be on welfare because both she and her husband have recently found jobs and are now able to support themselves and their son. They were encouraged to get married by Racquel’s mother, who had to raise Racquel all by herself. Since she is aware of the hardships of being a single mother, she wanted her daughter to avoid the same challenges. There has also been a decline in food stamp participation by eligible families, as “food stamps were designed primarily for non-working families, and emphasize minimizing payment errors that are much more common among working than among non-working families” (Sawhill, 13). Since more people are becoming employed, I guess there isn’t as much need for food stamps. What worries me about potentially leaving welfare is that “less than half of those leaving welfare for jobs get help with child care expenses” (Sawhill, 13). I’m hesitant to go off welfare because I’m not sure if we would be able to manage with Nia without the additional help. But with the numbers of working mothers rising, I’m beginning to wonder if I should start looking for a job. Should I focus on work or education? I think I need more time to observe the potential effects of the TANF reforms before I make any changes and decisions, especially ones that would impact Nia.

All I know is that I want to provide my child with “a more structured home environment, more work-oriented values, and greater exposure…to good quality out-of-home care or education” (Sawhill, 17). Hopefully the reforms will create more opportunity for this in Baltimore, improving the potential for Nia’s future.

Yvette Tillman, single mother.

Baltimore, 1996.

Clinton and the End of Welfare

 It has been three years since President Clinton has signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWOA), which replaced AFDC with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  The Republican controlled Congress pushed two welfare reform bills that President Clinton vetoed.  When he finally signed PRWOA, President Clinton received a lot of criticism from many left leaning Democrats – even three members from within his administration were not pleased.  Many Democrats argued that PRWOA was too harsh on the poor and would hurt those on welfare more than it benefited them.  President Clinton would not sign any bill that would hurt the poor.  In fact, when President Clinton was running for office in 1992, he pledged to “end welfare as we know it”.  He did not want people to rely on welfare; he wanted “to make welfare a second chance, not a way of life” (Clinton).  PRWOA provided block grants to states to assist the poor.  About 16.5 billion dollars would be given to states each year to create their own welfare system, as long as they follow specific federal requirements.


Since PRWOA has been signed, more welfare recipients have found jobs and are now working.  According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, “the percentage of working recipients reached an all-time high in fiscal year 1999 at 33 percent, compared to less than 7 percent in 1992 and 11 percent in 1996.” PRWOA led many welfare recipients to find jobs.  “UPS hired 52,000; CVS/pharmacy hired 45,000, 60% of whom remain” (Wolf).

There have also been increased measures to establish paternity at birth, and child support collections have increased 68% from 1992 to 1997 (Administration for Children and Families).  The child poverty rate has declined from “22.7 percent in 1993 to 18.9 percent in 1998 – the biggest five-year drop in nearly 30 years” (Administration for Children and Families).  With such promising statistics, we can see that President Clinton made the right choice in signing PRWOA into law in 1996.

President Clinton took other measures to ensure the success of welfare reform.  He doubled “the earned-income tax credit in 1993 for lower-income workers; the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which included $3 billion to move long-term welfare recipients and low-income, noncustodial fathers into jobs; the Access to Jobs initiative, which helped communities create innovative transportation services to enable former welfare recipients and other low-income workers to get to their new jobs; and the welfare-to-work tax credit, which provided tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire long-term welfare recipients” (Clinton).  In 1997, he even increased the minimum wage and doubled “federal financing for child care” (Clinton).

In just three years, the president has done a great deal to end the dependence on welfare handouts by creating work incentives.  This bi-partisan effort has done a great deal to change the welfare system for the better.  Just from looking at some of the statistics in the past few years, PRWOA is proving to be a success.

The White House,

September, 1999


Administration for Children and Families. “Third Annual Report to Congress – Executive Summary.” Administration for Children and Families. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 21 May 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <;.

Clinton, Bill. “How We Ended Welfare, Together.” The New York Times. 22 Aug. 2006. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <;.

Wolf, Richard. “How Welfare Reform Changed America.” USA Today. Gannett, 18 July 2006. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <;.

photo credit:

The War on the War on Poverty

April 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m sad to report that welfare devolution has continued under the Clinton administration with the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). This act, which instituted Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 1997, has implemented much more stringent requirements for welfare assistance and has therefore drastically cut the welfare rolls. The problem is that we have not seen an equivalent decrease in poverty rates. The problem is that when Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it” his goal was to simply cut people from the rolls without realizing that these people “don’t just disappear” (Sommerfeld, Reisch 309).

In fact, all of the people being cut from federal welfare have turned to nonprofits for help. Average demand for nonprofit services has increased by 26% since the passage of PRWORA, putting a huge stress on nonprofits (Sommerfeld, Reisch 303). This increased demand for nonprofit services is a result of the new time limits and work requirements embedded in welfare policy, which have drastically reduced the number of people that can qualify for federal assistance. For example, nobody can receive TANF funds for more than 60 months during their lifetime (Suppan 13). Furthermore, the requirements increase over time. In 1997, 20% of single mothers had to work at least 20 hours per week in order to qualify for welfare, by 2002 that number will jump to 50% of single mothers required to work at least 30 hours per week (Suppan 13).

The emphasis on work requirements may seem like a positive attribute of the new welfare legislation, and only 20 hours a week may seem very reasonable, but this policy does not take into account the fact that the state no longer provides childcare or transportation services, which were mandated by previous work requirements in welfare legislation (Suppan 13). Without these services it is nearly impossible for welfare recipients to hold a steady job. In addition, most welfare recipients do not have the skills to obtain anything other than “go nowhere jobs” with which they are “unable to keep up with the cost of living” (Sommerfeld, Reisch 305). Also, under the PRWORA’s “workfare” programs, which seek to provide employment for welfare recipients, Baltimore’s 209 public school custodial trainees make as little as $1.50 an hour (Suppan 22).Image

Overall, the “unspoken assumption of the new model is that the global economy will create jobs at wage and benefits levels to empower recipients of the Welfare Reform Act programs to become economically self-sufficient”, but this clearly has not been the result (Suppan 14). First of all, in order to provide employment for all of the people displaced by the cuts to welfare, job creation would have to quadruple (Suppan 14). Second of all, even if the opportunities were out there, welfare recipients do not have the resources to access them.

As a result of this dilemma, welfare recipients and former welfare recipients have turned to nonprofits for assistance. Through this “all our fears were realized; there is an increased demand for services with no corresponding increase in funding” (Sommerfeld, Reisch 312). Nonprofits are currently overwhelmed with the volume of demand. The number of seniors, dual parent families, single parents and grandparents who have formal or informal custody of their grandchildren has drastically increased since PRWORA (Sommerfeld, Reisch 305). In addition, the duration of people’s use of these services has increased. Nonprofits are doing their best to meet these new demands, but staffs are burnt out by the higher number of caseloads, extra and nontraditional hours and lack of sufficient funding (Sommerfeld, Reisch 306).

All of this would be doable if it was done in order to meet the goals of the nonprofit, but PRWORA has pushed nonprofits to restructure in accordance with its legislation. In particular, the emphasis on work requirements has forced nonprofits to focus on work-oriented programs instead of their original goals. Also, there is a newfound emphasis on numerical outcomes, data and evaluation measures rather than actual results for recipients. One of my colleagues has noted that “it has gotten to the point where this is not a social service agency any more. [It] more closely resembles a business” (Sommerfeld, Reisch 308). In regards to this, President Clinton should realize that if he wants to run the government like a business he has to be wary of focusing too much on quarterly earnings such as welfare cuts for risk of sacrificing the long term growth of the country and its citizens.


Sommerfeld, David, and Michael Reisch. “Unintended Consequences: The Impact of Welfare Reform in the United States on NGOs.” Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 14.3 (2003): 299-320. Print.

Suppan, Steve. Eye on America: Social Watch, 1997–2004. Publication. Minneapolis: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, 2005. Print.

Photo Source:

Stevens, Mick. “We Used to Feel Your Pain, but That’s No Longer Our Policy.” Cartoon. New York: New Yorker, 1995.

“Ending Welfare as We Know It”: A Theoretical Argument for Reform

April 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Today, the welfare system needs a major restructuring. While poverty decreased in the early years of the Great Society, from 1964 to 1968, improvements stalled in the 1970s, the same time that the budget for welfare programs was at its highest. Indeed, government handouts to the poor, requiring neither a change in values nor a change in the behavior on the part of the recipients, increased markedly during this decade. Yet the number of those in poverty stagnated, halting two decades of steady decline (Murray, 58). Why did this happen? What does this mean for the structure of America’s welfare state? Image

While many reasons are provided to counter the argument that poverty stagnated in the 1970s, despite the increase in the welfare state, these reasons fail to fully examine the economic data during this period. Arguments that a bad economy and an increase in older recipients halted this progress are negated by continuing economic growth in the 1970s, and by the stagnation in poverty decline for those below 65 years of age (Murray, 58-61).  Further, “latent” poverty, meaning the dependence of recipients on government transfers, actually increased during the 1970s, reaching 22 percent by 1980. This data illustrates a troubling decrease in economic independence, a characteristic “of paramount importance in determining the quality of a family’s life” (Murray, 65). Indeed, economic independence is at the core of American values; to lose this sense of self-reliance and sufficiency indicates a larger problem in the culture of the poor, a problem reinforced through the welfare system.

Most troubling, perhaps, is the fact that young black males, a group targeted by welfare policies, “stopped engaging in the fundamental process of seeking and holding jobs” (Murray, 78). It is important to recognize that this pattern occurred during times of full economic capacity and did not hold true for older generations of black males (Murray, 80). Those born after 1950 entered a labor market with radically different rules than those born prior to 1950, leading to marked changes in behavior and a forfeit of “their futures as economically independent adults” (Murray, 82). Thus, the welfare system of the past two decades has not only led to an increase in government expenditures, but also to economic dependence and disincentives to work, reinforcing behaviors that lead to poverty.

Changing these behaviors should be at the core of any welfare policy. The days of government handouts need to end, while the days of government “hand-ups” should begin. A system “oriented toward work and responsibility” would reinforce the characteristics that constitute productive citizens, thereby creating a long-term strategy for welfare reduction (Ellwood, 2). By making work “the ultimate goal and expectation,” welfare recipients will realize that they can no longer be dependent solely upon government subsidies, but must also seek employment opportunities and take responsibility for their economic wellbeing (Ellwood, 2). Further, the ongoing issue of child poverty highlights the need for forced behavioral changes in family structures. Making absent fathers financially responsible, and reducing the number of children born to unwed mothers, would greatly reduce the number of single females with children in poverty, the largest impoverished group in the country. Changes in welfare policy, such as “promoting the establishment of paternity” and holding teen parents accountable for their children, would diminish the choices and behaviors that cause child poverty (Ellwood, 2).

The abject failure of increased government spending on welfare necessitates a massive overhaul in the structure of welfare policy, an overhaul focused on reinforcing economic independence through work incentives and behavioral changes. No longer should a citizen be able to maintain a living solely through a government check. No longer should the government continue spending taxpayer money on a broken, failed system. Indeed, welfare “as we know it” must be radically transformed into a viable, sustainable system, one that incentivizes productive, responsible behaviors and leads to a long-term decrease in economic dependency, and thus a decrease in poverty.


Ellwood, David. “Welfare Reform As I Knew It: When Bad Things Happen to Good Policies.” American Prospect. 19 Nov 2001: n. page. Print.

Murray, Charles. Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980. New York : Basic Books, Inc., 1984. 56-84 . Print.